a house, building up the tension
Jean Harrison said she's swamped with phone calls from unhappy
homeowners and a stack of cases that continues to rise.
LUNN / STAFF
Ray Pereira and his wife, Carrie,
own this home in Rogershire
Crest neighborhood in
They say that the builder left unfinished drywall and areas of home
left unpainted and complain of a general lack of quality
construction. Among other things, the
have invited prospective home buyers into their house to show them
Codes Director Gary Luffman has had to
ask his blueprint inspectors to drop what they're doing and inspect
homes in order to complete an average of 9,100 home inspections a
resident Michael Guffy is suing the
builder of his $400,000 home, which he said is missing floor
supports, losing shingles when the wind blows and cracking.
Bell, president of Turnberry Homes, has
constructed mansions for celebrities, but said he can't seem to
man with a custom-built steam shower and a three-car garage.
McCampbell, who repairs leaky roofs and
specializes in ''moisture intrusion,'' said he'll always have a job.
's continued residential growth boom may be different. But one thing
is clear — more homes bring more work.
feel victimized, what do we do?'
and Dana Fisher put signs on their cars and in their yard. Ed and
Jennifer Donnelly started two Web sites. Ray Pereira handed out
cards and invited people into his home. Michael Guffy
hired a lawyer. These unhappy home buyers have chosen a variety of
fronts from which to fight their builders.
wish with all my heart I would have walked away from it,'' said
Victoria Abretske, who purchased a
$198,000 home in Spring Hill's Wyngate
Estates built by Keystone Builders.
who is now in a legal battle with Keystone, said her home was not
built to codes. She put up signs in her windows with frowning faces
and phrases such as ''Unhappy Keystone owner'' and ''Unfinished
Warranty Work.'' She claims the home leaks, the windows are not
properly framed, the floors are buckling, the cabinets are
splitting, trim is pulling away from the walls and the whole house
shakes whenever doors are shut.
been sued by her homeowners' association, which is controlled by the
developer, for putting up the signs. Now she's suing to get Keystone
to fix her house.
said she could have avoided litigation — and the legal fees she's
facing — if she and her husband, Paul, would have walked away from
the closing. They bought the house in December 2002 and noted
several problems then, which Abretske
said she was assured would be fixed.
you close, your rights are limited,'' attorney Jean Harrison said.
''If you see something wrong, don't give them any money until it's
builders offer the same advice. Debbie Psillas,
owner of Prestige Homes, said she won't allow a buyer to go to
closing until all imperfections or ''punch list'' items are
Pereira said walls weren't painted and drywall was still being
worked on the day he was set to close on a $279,000 home built by
Prestige. Faced with losing his deposit and having to find a place
for his family to stay until the work was completed, he decided to
said days after moving in, he and his wife, Carrie, noticed ripples
in the walls, areas that weren't painted, cracks in the ceiling and
a pile of dirt in the back yard that seemed to be there for good.
said he contacted Psillas and asked for
repairs, but was told he'd have to live with it.
feel victimized; what do we do?''
asked in December, two months after closing.
decided to get the company's attention, and the attention of
prospective home buyers, by putting signs on his car that read,
''Don't let Prestige Homes victimize you, too.'' He also posted a
message on the builder's Web site and started handing out cards with
his phone number and an invitation to tour his house.
did was slander her company's name. She said she offered to fix the
would go back to the Web site and write a message praising Prestige,
but the offer was declined.
are some people we can't do anything to satisfy,'' Psillas
said. ''We closed 280 houses last year and only have two unhappy
homeowners. That should tell you something.''
claims he was asked to e-mail everyone he complained to and take it
weren't going to play her little game and just paid to have to walls
in a section of
's Rogershire subdivision that's known
as ''The Crest,'' the
' home now is on the market.
and Dana Fisher, who bought a Spring Hill home from Wayne Dunn and
Associates in 2001, are being sued for slander because they put up
signs in their yard and on their cars. The signs were similar to the
ones Abretske put up, and stated the
home did not meet codes requirements. Dana Fisher said she moved the
signs inside after being threatened with a lawsuit. Now the Fishers
are suing Wayne Dunn and expect the case to go to court soon.
and Jennifer Donnelly bought a
home built by Pulte Homes in 2001. They claim the house was built on
a sinkhole and the roof leaks. They decided to use the Internet to
voice their complaints and launched two Web sites — www.getpulteoutoftn.com
said beyond filing complaints with the Tennessee Board of Licensing
Contractors or hiring an attorney, there's not much a homeowner can
do to get a builder to fix their home.
Guffy is fighting with Toll Brothers,
which built his $400,000 home in
. Guffy said he's already spent close to
$5,000 on experts and legal fees, but is no better off. He'll likely
spend thousands more if the case goes to court.
I come in, the trust is gone'
license plate reads ''WATRBOY.'' He's built a career around keeping
water out of people's homes. Harrison McCampbell
has no problem finding work, especially in
. He doesn't go searching for homeowners with leaks; they find him.
when I come in, the trust is gone,'' McCampbell
said. ''The subcontractor or the contractor has fed the homeowner a
bunch of bull. They've put on layer after layer of caulk and it's
not fixing the problem.''
said he's worked on $1 million homes in
and $200,000 homes in Spring Hill. His services aren't cheap and he
doesn't recommend quick fixes or ''band-aids.'' The solution he most
often proposes is to rebuild.
can't fix bad construction,'' he said. ''I'm concerned with value,
not with cost. If you have enough money and patience, I'll see your
problem gets solved.''
said most of the homes he works on are less than five years old.
Some are worth millions, some are worth thousands. What they have in
common, according to McCampbell, is
said more and more builders are hiring unskilled laborers. He's
seeing building plans that weren't followed and building codes that
were loosely interpreted. He thinks building codes need to be
written more clearly and codes inspectors need more training.
you shouldn't have to rely on codes for quality,'' McCampbell
said. ''That should be up to the contractor.''
said builders shouldn't take all the blame, though.
never be able to protect homeowners against themselves,'' McCampbell
said. ''They want homes built fast and cheap. They think bigger is
'We're doing the best we can'
officials across the county are struggling to keep up with rapid
residential growth. Codes departments in
are in the process of changing the way they organize and conduct
inspections to bring more efficiency to the process.
Luffman, director of
's Codes Department, said one thing to keep in mind is that homes
are inspected to the minimum codes.
job is to make sure you have a safe, livable place,'' Luffman
said. ''We don't have control over cosmetics, things like paint and
's Codes Department handles an average of 9,100 home inspections a
year. Luffman said that at a minimum, a
home being built in
is inspected 13 times. He said an average of 700
homes are built in
600 homes were built in
last year. Homes there are inspected seven times during the
construction phase. Brentwood Codes Director Joe Lassus
said inspectors spend a total of eight hours checking a home during
not out at the site throughout the building process,'' Lassus
said. ''That would be an impossible function for the city to do. We
ensure homes are built to the minimum standards.''
Spring Hill homes go through eight codes inspections, according to
codes director Ferrell White. Spring Hill recently hired a third
codes inspector, but last year the city's two inspectors averaged
963 inspections a month.
it's a packed load,'' White said. ''We stay busy all the time. If
you know what you're looking for, an inspection doesn't take long.''
check foundations, frames, plumbing, electrical connections,
drainage, gas lines and insulation.
we miss something we miss something, but we're doing the best we
can,'' Luffman said.
is looking for a new codes inspector after their inspector, Howard
D. Johnson, resigned.
Manager Shirley Forehand said Johnson's last day was March 26.
said Johnson and George King, a county inspector, will inspect homes
until a new codes official is hired.
were 82 single family dwellings built in
in the world will make them happy'
said she works on an average of 50 cases a day and puts in 90 hours
a week dealing with builder complaints.
only hear from unhappy homeowners,'' she said. ''People don't call
me to say they love their builder.''
admits she's a bit jaded when it comes to builders, but said she
believes there are good builders out there. ''You just have to find
them,'' she said.
said some cases do have happy endings, but warns home buyers that
''builders are out for one thing — your money.''
said that fewer than 10 people filed complaints with
's Codes Department last year. He said some of the complaints come
from people who move into homes that were more than three years old.
Bell, president of Turnberry Homes, said
he thinks some people can't be satisfied. He said this is the case
with Trevor Hubert, who bought a Turnberry
on the other hand, said he's only trying to get what he paid for —
a $522,000 custom-built home. He said he has a list of complaints,
which includes a $20,000 steam shower that doesn't steam. He claims
that the windows don't fit properly. He said he has trouble pulling
three cars into his three-car garage.
know no home is perfect, but they sold this to us as a custom-built,
high-quality home, and I haven't seen it,'' Hubert said.
said his company already has addressed three complaint lists from
Hubert. He spent $3,000 to dismantle and rebuild the steam shower
and said it wasn't broken in the first place.
don't know who the greatest builder in
is, but nobody could ever live up to the criteria of Trevor
said. ''Last year we closed 136 homes and Trevor Hubert is the only
said he knows there are bad builders, but said his company prides
itself on a ''spotless business record.'' In 1985 he built the royal
's Price Charles and Lady Diana in
. He's also built mansions for several
fact is 87% of home buyers are easygoing, 10 to 15% are tough as can
said. ''The other 3% or so make you want to jump off a cliff.
Nothing in the world will make them happy.''
, president of Pulte Homes, said his company has measures in place
to assure all home buyer concerns are addressed. He said Pulte tries
to educate home buyers during the building process. Bars said home
buyers are encouraged to come to quality inspections and ask any
questions they have.
we close on a home every light is turned on, every cabinet is
opened, every toilet flushed,'' Bars said. ''If a home buyer has
issues we'll take care of them to 100% satisfaction.''
Jan. 1, 2003
, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has taken six
complaints against Pulte, which completed about 200 homes last year.
There were seven complaints against Toll Brothers, one against
Prestige, three against Turnberry, and
two against Wayne Dunn. Prestige completed 280 homes last year. Turnberry
finished 136 homes. Figures from Toll Brothers and Wayne Dunn were
Jessup said her complaints are being taken care of by Toll Brothers.
Jessup and her husband Bill,
residents, bought a Toll Brothers home in 2001. She said the
$550,000 home had windows that weren't installed properly, skylights
that didn't have flashing around them, a granite countertop that
fell off, a leak over the dining room ceiling and a driveway that
was too steep.
Brothers has come back to fix many of the problems. Jessup said she
thinks that's because of the way she handled things.
was very methodical,'' Jessup said. ''I made lists of everything. I
wasn't belligerent with them. I haven't ranted and raved, cried or
thrown a temper fit. I just said this is what needs to be done and
asked them to fix it.''